I contacted Kathy Sramek at the suggestion of her former advisor, Ron Pettigrew. He told me that before I went to visit Illinois Valley Community College to speak with their advisors, I should send her an email letting her know that I would be there on campus.
“She is a big supporter of the program,” he said specifically. He assured me that she would be happy to hear from me and likely have a few prospective students to send my way. It’s an unusual endorsement; Kathy works for IVCC but isn’t an advisor at all. Kathy is the Administrative Assistant to the Director of Admissions and Records, a position that works much more directly with the staff at IVCC rather than with the students. However, she thinks so highly of the BGS degree that she actively recruits students, staff, family and friends to the program. When I arrived on the IVCC campus, Kathy was one of the first people to greet me.
Kathy first learned about the program when a BGS Advisor visited IVCC. When she started the program she had three Associate’s degrees under her belt: an A.S., an A.A. and an A.G.S. Through our program she was able to apply 80 credits towards her degree, leaving her with only the required 40 credits of upper division. Kathy said that this was one of the draws of the program. She was also able to use older credits that could have been expired had she gone into another major or to another University. In addition, as with many of our students, Kathy was employed full time and had a family to consider when she made the decision to pursue a Bachelor’s degree.
I asked her why, with three Associate’s degrees, a full time position in higher education and four children, she made that decision. “It’s something I always wanted.” Kathy responded. “I’m a life-long learner.”
Kathy and I talked about some of the details and obstacles of completing a Bachelor’s degree for adults in her position. She said that the flexibility of the program, the ability to “take classes in your pajamas,” was the real reason the work required was manageable. “I could take my laptop in where my family was to a work on a class while sitting around with them,” she said.
In this way, she explained, she was able to maintain her presence in the family without compromising her educational goals. She took an average of 6 to 9 credits per semester with one course in the summer and was able to graduate in three years’ time. And despite having never taken an online course before and being naturally apprehensive about the entire thing, she found that she absolutely loved taking courses this way. So much so, in fact, that she completed a minor in Computer Science along with her minor in Management. Kathy said that obtaining the minors was extremely beneficial professionally. She now teaches Keyboarding, Excel, and Intro to the World Wide Web as an adjunct in the Career and Technical Programs at IVCC. Additionally, she felt much more confident in her own work responsibilities and felt ahead of many technology changes as they came about.
Kathy didn’t just earn a degree; she took full advantage of all that the program and Western Illinois University could offer her. She took weekend courses at the Quad City campus, she was a member Alpha Sigma Lambda (the continuing education honors society), she pursued, and received a BGS scholarship, and was nominated for Honors Scholar. She immersed herself in the college experience and reaped the many benefits. She’s an amazing, fascinating, enthusiastic lady, and a great asset to our already sparkling array of alumni.